The Chemistry of Joy Workbook is a unique and helpful 10-week program for people suffering from depression. This workbook gives readers a comprehensive, linear plan to follow, rather than a jumbled series of tips or suggestions like some other depression self-help workbooks. It centers its plan on the concept of resilience, using the idea of nature springing back to life after a long, harsh winter as a metaphor to the human spirit.
The Chemistry of Joy was written by a group of helping professionals trained in various disciplines – from psychiatry to psychology to nutrition. Overall, the goal of this book is to provide the reader with a series of holistic interventions that are supported both by personal experience and scholarly research.
To introduce the work, the authors discuss the “enemies of joy.” According to their theory, joy is a natural, innate response that occurs when all aspects of life are aligned and working harmoniously. The authors then present what they see as the three domains of a person – the physical body, the mind and the heart. The authors believe that when all three of these domains are integrated and functioning as a whole, the person will experience joy. Within each domain the authors list common “enemies of joy” such as environmental toxins, financial uncertainty, personal loss, loneliness and isolation. This list helps the reader start the beginning process of assessing where they are at in their own personal journey toward joy and what may or may not be hindering them in their progression toward integration.
Part 1 of the workbook is dedicated to preparation; it helps the reader assess where they are and learn a little about where they are going in terms of the remaining content within the workbook. Most important, Part 1 introduces the concept of the nine pathways to joy: nurturing; balancing; flowing; settling; opening; knowing; connecting; belonging and deepening – matters of the body, mind and finally, of the heart. The authors provide readers with activities, including a resilience questionnaire assessment and a vision board assignment, which help to clarify the information that was presented to them.
Part 2 of the workbook is dedicated to the body pathways. This part discusses nutrition and its influence on depression. It gives the reader an extremely thorough amount of information on depression and using nutrition to support recovery by means of supplements and various vitamins and minerals.
Part 3 addresses matters of the mind, including how to utilize the psychology of mindfulness in your daily life. The authors introduce the readers to various beginner-level practices of meditation and mindful eating or mindful walking exercises. This simplifies the jargon of Eastern culture and brings the information the Western audience in a way that is both accessible and attainable.
The final part of the workbook details matters of the heart, the final domain of the integrated self. This is perhaps the most elusive domain to work with and I believe that it is placed at the end of the workbook for a reason. The structure of this book reads so that you are forced to take care of the most basic core issues of diet and medical issues before you are asked to address deeper issues such as acceptance of self, connection, and belonging, all of which are addressed in the concluding chapters of the workbook.
I would recommend The Chemistry of Joy to anyone who is interested in exploring every avenue on the road to reclaiming joy in their lives. This book addresses the person as a whole, instead of just looking solely at the medical side or the physical side of the individual. This is hopeful for the reader and encouraging as well. I believe it allows for a greater ability to change when the reader is presented with so many different “pathways to joy” vs. one suggestion or one person’s idea.
This workbook is the combination of many disciplines and theories and that is reflected in the information presented to the reader. This approach strengthens the book in a deep and meaningful way. The workbook also provides exercises and activities in abundance. This allows the reader to be very hands-on and engaged with their own process of finding joy.
One limitation of the book is the lack of a resource section. Since some of the information presented in this book might be new to the reader, a thorough resource index in the back of the book would be extremely helpful to supplement the information within the body of the workbook. I also did not see much within the text about when people should seek psychotherapy for a clinical depressive episode, rather than just a lack of joy in their lives. Overall, I would highly recommend the use of this book as both an assessment and treatment tool within a clinical setting.
The Chemistry of Joy Workbook: Overcoming Depression Using the Best of Brain Science, Nutrition, and the Psychology of Mindfulness
By Henry Emmons et al.
New Harbinger Publications: June 1, 2012
Paperback, 216 pages